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Dyadic Effects of Aging Self-Perceptions on Health

Updated: Aug 3

This HRS-based study shows that older couples can affect each other's health indirectly, by impacting each other’s aging self-perceptions.

Cohn-Schwartz, E., Segel-Karpas, D., & Ayalon, L. (2021). Longitudinal dyadic effects of aging self-perceptions on health. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 76(5), 900-909.


Objectives: Adults’ perceptions of aging are known to affect their mental and physical health. However, not much is known about how perceptions of aging within the couple-unit affect each member of the unit. Therefore, the current study explores the effects of husbands’ and wives’ self-perceptions of aging (SPA) on each other’s physical and mental health, both directly and indirectly, through impacting each other’s SPA.

Method: The study used data from the Health and Retirement Study, focusing on couples aged 50 and older. Self-rated health and Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale (CES-D) were used as indicators of physical and mental health. SPA was measured using the “Attitudes toward aging” subscale of the “Philadelphia Geriatric Center Morale Scale.” An actor–partner interdependence mediation model was used to examine the effects of the 2008 SPA of couples on each other’s 2012 SPA and 2016 health.

Results: The SPA of both husbands and wives was associated with their own future mental and physical health in 2016, but not with that of their partner. However, their SPA was associated with their partner’s health indirectly, by influencing the SPA of the partner. That is, the SPA of both husbands and wives in 2008 impacted their partner’s SPA in 2012, which was subsequently related to that partner’s mental and physical health in 2016.

Discussion: Older couples can influence each other’s health indirectly, by affecting each other’s SPA. This indicates that adults’ SPA are interconnected, and thus, the entire couple-unit should be targeted to enhance positive SPA.

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